Discrimination from the Magnet Position

I said I’d show the solution to the discrimination “tomorrow”. You know, the Mexican restaurant I go to has in the sign of their bar… “Free beer tomorrow!” And every time I go in I tell them “I was here yesterday… I’d like a free beer!” And they tell me “… that’s tomorrow!” Anyhow, I’m not sure how their lame joke applies to my tardiness. I just thought I’d share.

All of my handling comes from an analysis of the dog’s path. In this sequence the dog’s path clearly favors an approach to the wrong-course pipe tunnel after jump #6. What I’d like to do as a handler is draw the dog in for a square approach. Drawing the transitional path creates the handling riddle. We have three lines and two corners. And that becomes the handler’s job. I show the red line above with a broad transitional shift of about 7 or 8′. It really doesn’t have to be quite so deep or so square. I’d accept the corner to corner “square” indicated by the purple line crisscrossing the A-frame. Yet still, there is a bit of a transitional shift.

A two-corner performance calls for a two-corner handler movement or instruction to the dog. This is a perfect application for the RFP (though some will get away with a Flip).

From the Archive

I’m going to share with you something I wrote ten years ago or so. I might refine some of the language as I’ve become more persnickety in my quest for the perfect movement. But it’s a simple explanation of the mechanics and application of the RFP. And there’s no good reason for me to write a tomb of new text. This comes from the JFF Notebook #19; published about ten years ago.

Reverse Flow Pivot (RFP)

The reverse flow pivot is a combination of two Front Crosses, one coming rapidly on the heels of the other. It has two parts, a rotation towards the dog, and then a resumption of the original direction. The effect of the RFP is to tighten the dog to the handler’s position.

One thing that the RFP is *not*; the RFP is not a butt wiggle. Some handlers practice the RFP as a little twist in the mid-section. Perhaps they are taught the movement that way. Again, the RFP is a combination turn. It starts with a cross, and a change of lead hands. And it finishes with a second Front Cross, and a change back to the original lead hand. The rotation of the shoulders and toes is as important as the rotation of the handler’s mid-section, perhaps more so.

Some consider the RFP a “fake-out” movement. A certain NADAC judge says she doesn’t approve of the RFP because it’s “lying” to the dog. It’s not lying. You want both responses that the RFP invokes in the dog; turn this way, and then turn that way.

This illustration shows an RFP that is wide open, so that both of the Front Crosses are very clear and well defined. There is a significant transitional distance between the two crosses. Note the change of lead hands. Notice also that the handler’s shoulders have rotated completely in the direction of each turn.

The RFP is an important movement and necessary in the serious handler’s repertoire of handling skills. As the handler has a compelling interest in staying in front of the dog (Front Crosses are crosses in “front’ of the dog,) the handler’s movement needs to be very brisk, and convincing to the dog.

To be sure, different dogs respond differently to the rotation of the handler’s body. If you were to put the dog’s sensitivity to the rotation of the handler’s body on a scale, the scale would range from “subtle” to “dramatic.” After executing the first element of the RFP, the first cross, the handler has to be prepared to finish with the second cross based on the dog’s reaction to the first movement.

In this sequence the handler uses an RFP to tighten the dog’s turn on the landing side of jump #2, to tighten up the turn and keep the dog from drifting too wide. Note that the handler completely rotates his body back towards the dog (a counter rotation,) and then completely turns back to resume the original lead hand.

The handler needs to “hold” the first cross until the dog clearly responds to the counter rotation of the turn. As soon as the dog’s nose comes around to address jump #3, the handler must flip back and present the jump while getting going in the new direction of the course.

This is a common application of the RFP, and is good, basically, for shaving a second from the dog’s time by shortening the dog’s overall path.


One of the most important uses of the RFP is in solving a discrimination problem. In this drawing the handler is on the body magnet side. He’s not relying on the possibility that he’s an irresistible attraction to the dog, and that the dog will gravitate towards him, and take the obstacle nearer. He’s using the RFP as “insurance,” making sure that the dog turns subtly towards him, tightening up to his position.

Note the handler’s position at the moment of the RFP. He is in a control position, right alongside the tunnel, and not out in space somewhere.

Again, the handler needs to “hold” the first cross until he gets a response from the dog. It doesn’t take much in this scenario. The dog turns his head and takes a step in the direction of the turn. The handler should immediately get the second cross done.

Another use of the RFP is to bring the dog to a compelling stop on the descent of a contact obstacle. Frankly, most dogs will come to a stop alongside the handler, if the handler just stops. Most down contacts are missed because the dog is racing the handler. However, some dogs will bail the contact without regard to the handlers stopping.

Turning back to face the dog in the RFP will make some of the most frenetic dogs come to a pause that saves the missed contact fault.

The RFP is also useful for slowing the dog down on the approach to the weave poles in order to insure a solid entry. Note that the handler is in a control position. When he turns back in the second cross of the RFP, he uses his lead hand to “gate” the poles for the dog.

Using the RFP to control the dog’s approach to the weave poles presumes that the handler recognizes a sequence that builds speed. It’s something a handler might do for a more novice dog. We presume that a more advanced dog will learn to make the entry at any speed.

We also have to presume that the handler is forward of the dog for the approach to the weave poles. This is true of any scenario that the handler might use an RFP.

The RFP can also be used to cause a long-strided dog, subject to leap over the contact zone of the A-frame or dogwalk, to shorten his stride and walk up through the contact. This is useful on courses that frame the contact obstacle from the start line or from a table position.

From the start the dog sees the A-frame, and calculates exactly where he’s going to hit the ramp. That calculation mightn’t involve anything near the contact zone. The handler’s task then is to execute the RFP in the moment the dog is getting ready to make the ascent, thereby introducing for a split second to the dog, the possibility that the team might be going in another direction. But before the dog can react and actually turn away from the ramp, the handler turns back and makes the presentation. The dog, now without the benefit of his former calculations, will walk right up through the contact. This is a maneuver of rather precise timing. It requires a lot of practice on the part of the handler so that the handler knows exactly how much rotation to give, and at what instant on the approach.

I could surely go on an on with applications for the Reverse Flow Pivot. I’ve threatened for several years now to write a paper, 101 Uses for the RFP. It is such a practiced movement for me, and for many of my students, that it occurs naturally in competition, and sometimes spontaneously, coming as it does from a place in muscle memory.

A handler might use an RFP in response to a dog drifting away, just to bring him home. It’s also a good tool very working a very green dog, to “gather” the dog between obstacles, and to keep the dog engaged.

Errors in Reverse Flow Pivoting

Surely the RFP is a double-edged sword. If it is not perfectly executed it can create conditions for course faults at least as damaging as those the movement is being used to avoid. And, since the RFP is a combination turn, made up of two Front Crosses, the entire litany of errors associated with the Front Cross can also be associated with the RFP—and two-fold!

The RFP is also foot-step intensive. It tends to get the handler “stuck” in a back and forth tap dancing movement that doesn’t go anywhere very quickly. As I’ve often observed, a handler standing still tends to be slower than most dogs. And when you’re standing still, the world can pass you by.

The biggest error that students make when they are first learning the RFP is “waiting for the connection.” Rather than getting on with the movement, a handler will stop and beg his dog’s attention to his lead hand. The problem with “waiting” is that the handler is failing to give the dog anything to respond to. The dog has no reason to make the turn, and move, if the handler doesn’t actually make the turn, and move. Remember, we want to operate under the premise that the dog actually wants to go where the handler goes. So the handler should actually go.

In this illustration the handler is committing a classic error in the RFP. He does not have a “control” position in solving the discrimination problem. He surely gets the dog’s attention with the counter-rotation of the RFP. But when he turns back, with the second cross, the dog is still presented with the choice of the two obstacles. It’s a 50/50 proposition.

Almost always the “control” position is the boldest possible position. The handler’s right foot should nearly be able to touch the tunnel after the first turn. And, when he turns back, he should be able to point right into the tunnel.

In this illustration, the handler holds the first turn for too long. And the dog takes the handler’s dramatic unfolding as a directive to take the off-course jump.

All movement is based on “cues.” There is an exactly precisely right moment to begin every turn and to take every step. In the RFP the cue for the second Cross comes from the dog’s response to the first Cross. The dog turns, and moves towards the handler. At this moment the off-course tunnel entry is no longer presented to the dog. So it’s time for the handler to begin the second movement.

The speed of the dog should be held in account. The quicker the dog moves, and the more responsive the dog to the handler’s movement, the more brisk should be the handler’s own motion. And most of all, the handler should watch for his cues.

This error is essentially the same as the previous error, but with a slightly different consequence. The handler has held the first rotation for too long, not watching for his cues, and has caused the dog to run around him and earn a refusal on the next correct obstacle.

The RFP is a matter of some subtlety. It is worth a great deal of practice so that the handler knows the movement, and the dog learns to respond.

The RFP is slow dog handling, as the handler is in a forward and “pulling” posture.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training ~ Issue #0 ~ August 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special00” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

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2 Responses to “Discrimination from the Magnet Position”

  1. Jeff Whitsitt Says:

    Sandy Koufax

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